What Tattoos Are Allowed In The Army
Well, the Cliff Notes version of the Armys tattoo policy goes something like this:
The wrist down and the neck up are off limits, with the exception of a single ring tattoo, otherwise its fair game.
While this might help to understand the policy in general terms, its actually a bit more nuanced than this.
Its true that there are no limits as to how many tattoos, and the size of those tattoos, a soldier can have on their arms, legs, chest, and torso.
You can be tatted up pretty good in the Army.
And while you cannot have any hand tattoos , you can have one ring tattoo per hand, located where you would naturally wear a ring.
Finally, permanent makeup such as eyebrows and eyeliner is allowed only on women, and must be applied conservatively and with modesty.
Tattoos That Are Allowed Under Army Rules
Generally, the Army’s tattoo policy allows most tattoos but forbids most of those that would be visible in uniform.
The Army regulations do, however, allow one ring tattoo on each hand, although it must not extend beyond where a ring naturally would rest on your finger .
As a result of these placement and visibility rules, tattoos and brands are not allowed on:
- Your head
- Your neck above the t-shirt line
- Inside your eyelids, mouth or ears
- Your wrists
- Your hands
So-called “permanent makeup,” which includes tattoos used as permanent eyebrows or eyeliner, is allowed as long as it follows the Army’s rules on makeup. Those rules, covered in the same Army regulation, allow makeup only for women, and require the makeup to be “applied modestly and conservatively.”
Can I Join The Army With A Tattoo
One of the most common questions we get is Can I Join the Army if I have a Tattoo. This article answers that question and outlines what types of tattoos may keep you from joining the U.S. Army.
You will NEVER be allowed to enlist in the Regular Army, Army Reserves, or Army National Guard if you have any of the non-waivable disqualifying tattoos below. Depending on abundance of recruits, standards may be more strict than listed:
- Tattoos located on the head, face, neck, wrists, hands, or fingers
- Tattoos which are extreme, sexist, indecent, or racist
- Having more than four tattoos located below the knee or between the elbow and wrist
As part of efforts to maintain the professional appearance of the force, the Army dialed back the number, size and placement of tattoos in the March regulation.
Previously authorized tattoos were grandfathered in, but Soldiers hoping to become an officer had to get an exception to the policy.
The updated regulation takes into account that previously authorized tattoos should not prevent a Soldier from becoming an officer, but that candidates are to be evaluated based on the whole Soldier concept, or all characteristics of a Soldier.
Here is the latest policy on tattoos from Army Regulation 670-1 :
33. Tattoo, Branding, and Body Mutilation PolicyNote: This paragraph is punitive with regard to Soldiers. Violation by Soldiers may result in adverse administrative action and/or charges under the provisions of the UCMJ.
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Unclas 191708z Mar 07
Subj/Announcement Of Changes To The Marine Corps Tattoo Policy//
REF/A/MSGID:DOC/CMC WASHINGTON DC MCUB/YMD:20030331//
POC/S. T. FOSTER/CAPT/-/-/TEL:COMM 703 784 9387/TEL:DSN 278 9387//
NARR/REF A MCO P1020.34G,
1. Purpose. To detail revisions and additions to the Tattoo Policy found in MCO P1020.34G, Marine Corps Uniform Regulations.
2. Effective 1 April 2007, paragraph 1004.1c of MCO P1020.34G, Marine Corps uniform regulations, is cancelled and replaced with the following paragraph. “… Marines are prohibited from:
3. The following new suparagraphs 1004.1c and 1004.1c are added.
Marines who currently have a sleeve tattoo will be Grandfathered. The Marine’s command will insert a photograph of the respective tattoo along with a measurement of the size in inches and of the location on the body and the date the tattoo was documented, on the page 11 of the Marine’s SRB. The Marine will sign the page 11 entry verifying the information is correct.
The Deputy Commandant For Manpower And Reserve Affairs is designated as the adjudicating authority for any tattoo issue involving retention or special duty assignments. Review of a questionable tattoo will be submitted to DC M& RA via the Reenlistment, Extension, Lateral Move System . The package will include a photograph of the tattoo, measurement of the size in inches, description of the location and explanation as to why the tattoo has been deemed questionable by the Commander.
Can You Have Tattoos In The Military
If youve ever considered joining a branch of the armed services you know that there are strict guidelines you must meet. From education to age requirements to fitness tests, there are various requirements for enlisting. However, one of the most common questions people have is if you can have tattoos in the military.
Every branch has its own rules, some more strict than others, which means if you already have some ink youll need to do some extra digging to see whats allowed. The armed forces of the United States are made up of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and the Coast Guard. Additionally, the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard are reserve components of their services and operate in part under state authority.
For this article, well be focusing exclusively on the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, and the Coast Guard.
- Before and after 6 laser treatments with MEDermis
- Before and after 7 laser treatments with MEDermis
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Where Can I Not Get Tattoos
The biggest problems for those with tattoos will be if they are showing intolerance or if the tattoos are in the areas which are still not acceptable. These will include tattoos they view as racist, sexist, or any other kind of prejudice against a group as well as tattoos that show gang and extremist symbolism .
If you have tattoos containing intolerant messages and do not plan to remove them, you will not be accepted into the Navy.
Only face and head tattoos will no longer be allowed. After the 2016 policy reform, there has been a great reform of what is acceptable for Navy servicemen and servicewomen. As long as there is nothing on your face or head, you will likely be able to enlist .
Regardless of the tattoo and where it is, it will need to be noted down on your service record. Failing to show all tattoos and have them noted or acquiring more tattoos while actively serving can cause problems for you.
Although youre at the mercy and discretion of your commanding officer, it is very possible that you will face disciplinary action for unauthorized tattoos or even involuntary discharge from service, which can have long term consequences on your life back in civilian society.
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Why Tattoos Are Not Allowed In Army
Reason behind Strict policy on Body Tattoo: Indian Defence Forces do not allow candidates with permanent body tattoo because they are likely to have hazardous skin diseases. Some of the serious blood-borne diseases, infections caused due to tattoos are a risk of HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A, tetanus, allergies, etc.
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What Are The Differences In The Piercing Policy For Women And Men
The only difference is the wear of earrings. Males may not wear earrings on duty, whether in or out of uniform. They also cannot wear them off duty on base.
Females performing official duty in civilian attire are limited to the same wear criteria when in uniform: i.e., a single small spherical, conservative, diamond, gold, white pearl, or silver pierced or clip earring per earlobe. The earrings must match and should fit tightly without extending below the earlobe.
Above Information Derived from AFI 36-2903 and the Air Force News Service
What Tattoos Are Not Allowed In The National Guard
Once again the National Guard follows the same standards set forth in the Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia manual.
The National Guard has two determining factors for unauthorized tattoos:
2. Content of the Tattoo
First, in terms of location, the National Guard tattoo policy has very few places on the body where tattoos are not permitted.
Regardless, the head, scalp, face, neck, and hands are pretty much off-limits with a couple of exceptions.
You can find out if you follow the National Guard tattoo policy for 2021 by doing the t-shirt test.
When you put on a t-shirt and look in the mirror do you see any ink visible above the collar line of the shirt?
If so, you technically are in violation of the National Guard tattoo policy.
The restrictions also apply to the hands and legs.
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Final Words On Military Tattoos
If youve been following along, you should be a military tattoo policy pro by now. Weve covered the new and updated tattoo policies for each of the armed services the Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
Youre also well aware that the overarching theme is this: the military is becoming less strict and more accommodating of tattoos at least in size and number of tattoos.
As far as the content of tattoos, each of the branches still have their non-negotiables that you must be aware of and abide by.
We hope this extensive, in-depth guide helps you on your way to serving our country.
As they say, knowledge is power and in this case, its half the battle! So go forth in confidence, knowing exactly what to expect from your desired service branch.
In the meantime, have a look at our other related posts, and keep an eye out for more in-depth guides and articles all about the military and how to join.
The Message Of The Tattoo
For safety reasons, the Army does not allow tattoos that are rude, obscene, or vulgar or which contain symbols or religious emblems that could represent a religious belief.
But the Army allows some tattoos that promote good citizenship. The Army allows tattoos on soldiers after theyve received the requisite counseling and after the paperwork is approved by their chain of command.
Army Regulation 670-1 states: If you have a tattoo and it so happens to be visible in an official way, such as visible in a photograph of your Drill Sergeants School class photo, then it must be reported to your commanding officer for approval prior to getting it done. If the tattoo is visible in a photo of your unit in your official ABU or other Army Uniform, then it must also be approved by your MRA.
If the commanding officer approves the tattoo, then you must go to a Military Arts Tattoo Studio to get ink or mechanical drawing of that design. If you are giving the tattoo artist an idea of what you want, be sure they can produce an accurate rendering. The Army requires that imprints of approved tattoos be submitted to the unit historian for permanent records.
A person who is 18 years of age or older and has been in the Armed Forces for less than five years can get a tattoo if he or she has consulted with his military chain of command and the Military Reviewing Authority and obtained written approval.
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Military Rules On Tattoos
Any visible tattoos can stop people from being accepted into the military.
The Army relaxed their rules on tattoos in 2014 allowing them on the back of a hand or back of a neck.
Originally soldiers could only have them on the upper arm as they could be hidden by uniform.
However, tattoos that are obscene, ie those that depict sex acts, violence or illegal drugs for example are a no-no.
In 2013-14, the Army rejected 336 applications because of offensive or inappropriately placed tattoos, a Freedom of Information request showed.
One in five Britons has a tattoo, according to research cited by the British Association of Dermatologists in 2012.
The change to policy is consistent with the Armyâs relaxation of rules in 2014, where they found no evidence to suggest the new approach has had an adverse impact on operational effectiveness.
The main Royal Navy change is that tattoos on the neck are now acceptable providing they are not visible in a front-view passport photo while the subject is wearing an open-neck shirt.
Tattoos on the hands are acceptable, provided they are not below the knuckle or on the palm of the hand.
Navy chiefs stress most tattoos and piercings wonât prevent recruits joining the Royal Marines providing they are not visible on a front-view passport.
The tradition dates back more than 300 years when Captain Cook explored the Pacific and his crew copied the tattoos worn by natives as âsouvenirsâ.
Air Force Tattoo Ideas And Meanings
Turns out, the Air Force gives you wings!
In fact, I would venture to guess that 90% of all Air Force tattoos somehow incorporate the famous wings overlapping a central star.
Youll also see Airmen sporting USAF tattoos that symbolize a deep patriotic pride in their nation and flag.
Eagles abound, and of course, no USAF tattoo is complete without showcasing the very symbol of the branch the fighter jet itself.
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What Tattoos Are Not Allowed In The Army
As far as placement or location goes, we recommend the t-shirt test.
Throw on a t-shirt and stand in front of the mirror. Now, you cannot have any tattoos showing above the t-shirt collar line or anywhere on the neck, ear, face, scalp, etc.
This restriction also includes any inner-mouth or eyelid tattoos .
You cannot have any tattoos on your hands either .
The hand is defined as any location below the wrist bone. With this in mind, its best not to have any ink on your wrists at all.
As far as content of the tattoos, the Army prohibits anything that is:
These types of tattoos cannot be located anywhere on your body. And believe us, theyll check.
Of course, the terms above can be interpreted in different ways, so its ultimately up to your Recruiting Commander to make the call.
Also, if you have tattoos and eventually want to become an Officer or Warrant Officer, dont worry, theres still hope of moving up in rank.
You see, Commanders make recommendations for soldiers based on many considerations so you likely wont be rejected on account of your tattoos alone.
Finally, if you have a tattoo that you think will disqualify you from the Army, its worth a shot to check with the recruiters anyway.
You might get a waiver for, say, a tiny tattoo on your hand or something small behind your ear.
So dont count yourself out!
Space Force Tattoo Regulations
As of the writing of this article, we were unable to locate a tattoo policy for the U.S. Space Force, the sixth and newest branch of the military.
Even though we found guidance on Space Force uniforms and insignia, we advise you to speak with a recruiter and become familiar with the Air Force tattoo policy as the Space Force is situated within the Air Force.
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Coast Guard Tattoo Regulations
In the Coast Guard, you can have full sleeve and half-sleeve tattoos, full back and chest tattoos, and tattoos elsewhere on your body, including your legs.
Members of the Coast Guard arent restricted at all when it comes to tattoo size or percentage of coverage. However, any branding cant be larger than a 4-inch by 4-inch area.
- No tattoo can be visible above the Coast Guard crew neck t-shirt.
- You can have one single band ring tattoo on each hand.
- You can also have a finger tattoo that can run the length between the first and second knuckle. You can also have one small hand tattoo, per hand, between the wrist and first knuckle, but it cannot extend one inch in any dimension.
- The Coast Guard also allows Ultraviolet or black light tattoos. The restrictions on these are the same as for regular tattoos.
As far as donts, the Coast Guard also prohibits the tattoos listed above. Other than that, you have free rein to use your body as a canvas.
What Can You Do If Your Tattoo Doesnt Meet Military Standards
Laser tattoo removal is your best option for getting rid of unwanted ink that violates the military standard. While the military will not pay for your removal, many laser clinics offer military discounts. At MEDermis Laser Clinic were proud to offer 10% off individual treatments or an additional 10% off our discounted prepaid packages to all active military personnel.
- Before and after 3 laser treatments with MEDermis
- Before and after 5 laser treatments with MEDermis
What Tattoos Are Allowed In The Coast Guard
In the Coast Guard, you can have full sleeve and half-sleeve tattoos, full back and chest tattoos, and tattoos elsewhere on your body including your legs.
Members of the Coast Guard arent restricted at all when it comes to tattoo size or percentage of coverage.
However, any body branding cannot be larger than a 4-inch by 4-inch area.
The Guards old policy detailed that tattoos werent allowed to be visible at all above the v-neck undershirt, and they have since expanded to the crew neck t-shirt.
No tattoo can be visible above the Coast Guard crew neck t-shirt.
Hand tattoos are allowed with certain restrictions. You can have one single band ring tattoo on each hand.
You can also have a finger tattoo that can run the length between the first and second knuckle. On top of that you can also have 1 small hand tattoo, per hand, between the wrist and first knuckle , but it cannot extend one inch in any dimension.
The Coast Guard also allows Ultraviolet or black light tattoos.
The restrictions on these are exactly the same as for regular tattoos.
Cosmetic tattoos are also permitted.
Cosmetic tattooing is defined as a medical or surgical procedure conducted by a trained and licensed medical professional.
Some people get cosmetic tattoos to cover up scar tissue, or to otherwise make a medical issue less prominent in appearance.
The Coast Guard is perfectly fine with these types of tattoos.